The Fall of Troy (page 654, with art)

Chapter 16, The Trojan War

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Diktys Cretensis, De Bello Troiano 5.4

When the king had left, they decided that Antenor should return to the Greeks and learn what terms they wanted exactly; and that Aeneas, as he desired, should go along too. Thus the council broke up.

About midnight, Helen came to Antenor secretly. She suspected that they were about to return her to Menelaus and feared that she would be punished for having abandoned her home. Accordingly, she begged him to mention her, when he spoke among the Greeks, and plead in her behalf. Now that Alexander was dead, she hated all Troy, as they knew, and wanted to return to her people.

At daybreak, Antenor and Aeneas came to the ships and told us all about their city’s descision. Then they withdrew with those they had talked to before, to plan what action to take. It was during these discussions about Troy and their nation that they also told about Helen’s desires and asked forgiveness for her; and finally they agreed on how best to betray their city.  Latin Text

Diktys Cretensis, De Bello Troiano 5.11-12

At Troy, Antenor and Aeneas were making sure that the exact amount of gold and silver, in accordance with the terms of the peace, was carried to the temple of Minerva.

And we, having learned that the allies of the Trojans had left, were careful to keep the terms of the peace. There was no more killing and no more wounding, lest the barbarians suspect that we were breaking agreements.

When the wooden horse had been built, complete in all points, we drew it out to the walls. The Trojans were told to receive it religiously as a sacred offering to Minerva. They poured from their gates and joyously welcomed the horse. A sacrifice was made, and they drew it nearer the city. When, however, they saw that the horse was too large to pass through their gates, they decided, their enthusiasm blinding them to any objections, to tear down their walls. Thus they all joined in, and tore down their walls, those walls which had stood for centuries unharmed, and which, as tradition told, were the masterwork of Neptune and Apollo.

When the work of demolition was almost complete, the Greeks purposely caused a delay. We said that the Trojans must pay the gold and silver they had promised before they could draw the horse into Troy. Thus there was an interval of time during which, the walls being half demolished, Ulysses hired all of the Trojan carpenters to help repair the ships.

When our fleet had thus been put in order, along with all of our sailing gear, and when the gold and silver had been paid, we ordered the Trojans to continue their work of destruction. As soon as a part of the walls was down, a crowd of joking men and women merrily hastened to draw the horse within their city.

[12] Meanwhile we, having stowed everything on the ships and having set fire to our huts, sailed off to Sigeum and there awaited the night.

When the Trojans, being worn out with carousing and feeling happy and secure because of the peace, had fallen asleep, we returned to the city, sailing through the dead silence, following the beacon that Sinon raised from his hidden position. Soon we had entered the walls and divided the city among us. At a given signal, we slaughtered whomever we found – in homes, on streets, in places sacred and profane. Some of the Trojans awoke, but these were cut down before they could reach for their arms or think of a way to escape. There was, in short, no end to death and slaughter. Parents and children were killed, while loved ones watched and lamented, and then the latter were killed – a pitiable sight. With equal dispatch, the buildings of the city were set on fire and destroyed; the only homes to be saved were those of Aeneas and Antenor, where guards had been posted.  Latin Text

Dares Phrygius, De Bello Troiano 37-39

When the Trojans saw their predicament, Antenor, Polydamas, and Aeneas went to Prima and asked him to call a meeting of the council to discuss the future of Troy and the Trojans.

Priam agreed, and so the meeting was called. Antenor spoke first, he and the other two having obtained permission to give their advice. The Trojans, he said, had lost their foremost defenders, Hector and the other sons of the king, along with the leaders from other places; but the Greeks still had their bravest commanders, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Neoptolemus, who was no less brave than his father, Diomedes, the Locrian Ajax, and many others besides, like Nestor and Ulysses, who were very shrewd men. Furthermore, the Trojans were surrounded and worn out with fear. Therefore, he urged the return of Helen and the things Alexander and his men had carried off with her. They must make peace.

After they had discussed making peace at some length, Amphimachus, Priam’s son, a very brave youth, arose and, calling down curses upon Antenor and his associates, blamed them for the way they were acting. He felt that the Trojans should lead forth their army and make an attack on the camp and never give up until they had either conquered or died fighting in behalf of their country.

After Amphimachus had spoken, Aeneas arose and tried to refute him. Speaking calmly and gently but with persistence, he urged the Trojans to sue for peace with the Greeks. Then Polydamas urged the same course as Aeneas.

[38] After this speech Priam arose with great eagerness and hurled many curses at Antenor and Aeneas. They had been the means, he said, by which war had arisen, for they were the envoys who had been sent to Greece; Antenor, who now urged peace, had then urged war when, on returning from Greece, he had told how scornfully he had been treated; and Aeneas had helped Alexander carry off Helen and the booty. In view of these facts, he, Priam, had made up his mind. There would be no peace.

He commanded everyone to be prepared. When the signal was given, they must rush from the gates and either conquer or die. He had made up his mind.

After exhorting them thus at some length, Priam dismissed them. Then, taking Amphimachus along toe the palace, he told him that those who urged peace must be killed. He feared that they would betray the city. Also, they had won much support for their views among the people. Once they were killed, he, Priam, would see to his country’s defense and the Greeks’ defeat.

Begging Amphimachus to be faithful and true, he told him to gather a band of armed men. This could be done without any suspicion. As for this part, tomorrow after going to the citadel to worship as usual, he would invite those men to dine with him. Then Amphimachus, along with his band, must rush in and kill them.

Amphimachus agreed to this plan and promised to carry it out. And then he departed from Priam.

[39] During the same day, Antenor, Polydamas, Ucalegon, and Dolon met in secret. They were amazed at the stubbornness of the king, who, when surrounded by the enemy, preferred to die rather than sue for peace, thus causing the destruction of his country and people. Antenor had a plan for solving their problem, and if the others would swear allegiance, he would reveal it.

When all had sworn as he wished, he first sent word to Aeneas, and then told them his plan. They must, he said, betray their country, and in such a way that they might safeguard themselves and their families. Someone must go – someone that no one could suspect – and tell Agamemnon. They must act quickly. He had noticed that Priam, when leaving the council, was enraged because he had urged him to sue for peace; and he feared that the king was devising some treachery.

All promised their aid and immediately chose Polydamas – he would arouse least suspicion – to go in secret and see Agamemnon.

Thus Polydamas, having gone to the camp of the Greeks, saw Agamemnon and told him the plan.  Latin Text

Diktys Cretensis, De Bello Troiano 5.12

At daybreak our forces came to the house where Helen was living with Deiphobus. He (as already described) had taken her to wife when Alexander had died. Now Menelaus tortured him to death, brutally cutting him to pieces, lopping off ears and arms and nose and so forth.  Latin Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 12.360-88

A hapless-seeming man thereby they spied, Sinon; and this one, that one questioned him touching the Danaans, as in a great ring they compassed him, and with unangry words first questioned, then with terrible threatenings. Then tortured they that man of guileful soul long time unceasing. Firm as a rock abode the unquivering limbs, the unconquerable will. His ears, his nose, at last they shore away in every wise tormenting him, until he should declare the truth, whither were gone the Danaans in their ships, what thing the Horse concealed within it. He had armed his mind with resolution, and of outrage foul recked not; his soul endured their cruel stripes, yea, and the bitter torment of the fire; for strong endurance into him Hera breathed; and still he told them the same guileful tale: “The Argives in their ships flee oversea weary of tribulation of endless war. This horse by Calchas’ counsel fashioned they for wise Athena, to propitiate her stern wrath for that guardian image stol’n from Troy. And by Odysseus’ prompting I was marked for slaughter, to be sacrificed to the sea-powers, beside the moaning waves, to win them safe return. But their intent I marked; and ere they spilt the drops of wine, and sprinkled hallowed meal upon mine head, swiftly I fled, and, by the help of Heaven, I flung me down, clasping the Horse’s feet; and they, sore loth, perforce must leave me there dreading great Zeus’s daughter mighty-souled.”

[418] In subtlety so he spake, his soul untamed by pain; for a brave man’s part is to endure to the uttermost.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 12.389-414

And of the Trojans some believed him, others for a wily knave held him, of whose mind was Laocoon. wisely he spake: “A deadly fraud is this,” He said, “devised by the Achaean chiefs!” And cried to all straightway to burn the Horse, and know if aught within its timbers lurked.

[427] Yea, and they had obeyed him, and had ‘scaped destruction; but Athena, fiercely wroth with him, the Trojans, and their city, shook earth’s deep foundations ‘neath Laocoon’s feet. Straight terror fell on him, and trembling bowed the knees of the presumptuous: round his head horror of darkness poured; a sharp pang thrilled his eyelids; swam his eyes beneath his brows; his eyeballs, stabbed with bitter anguish, throbbed even from the roots, and rolled in frenzy of pain. Clear through his brain the bitter torment pierced even to the filmy inner veil thereof; now bloodshot were his eyes, now ghastly green; anon with rheum they ran, as pours a stream down from a rugged crag, with thawing snow made turbid. As a man distraught he seemed: all things he saw showed double, and he groaned fearfully; yet he ceased not to exhort the men of Troy, and recked not of his pain. Then did the Goddess strike him utterly blind.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 12.444-463

[479] But still Laocoon ceased not to exhort his countrymen to burn the Horse with fire: they would not hear, for dread of the Gods’ wrath. But then a yet more hideous punishment Athena visited on his hapless sons. A cave there was, beneath a rugged cliff exceeding high, unscalable, wherein dwelt fearful monsters of the deadly brood of Typhon, in the rock-clefts of the isle Calydna that looks Troyward from the sea. Thence stirred she up the strength of serpents twain, and summoned them to Troy. By her uproused they shook the island as with earthquake: roared the sea; the waves disparted as they came. Onward they swept with fearful-flickering tongues: shuddered the very monsters of the deep: Xanthus’ and Simois’ daughters moaned aloud, the River-nymphs: the Cyprian Queen looked down in anguish from Olympus. Swiftly they came whither the Goddess sped them: with grim jaws whetting their deadly fangs, on his hapless sons sprang they.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 12.525-79

[565] One heart was steadfast, and one soul clear-eyed, Cassandra. Never her words were unfulfilled; yet was their utter truth, by Fate’s decree, ever as idle wind in the hearers’ ears, that no bar to Troy’s ruin might be set. She saw those evil portents all through Troy conspiring to one end; loud rang her cry, as roars a lioness that mid the brakes a hunter has stabbed or shot, whereat her heart maddens, and down the long hills rolls her roar, and her might waxes tenfold; so with heart aflame with prophecy came she forth her bower. Over her snowy shoulders tossed her hair streaming far down, and wildly blazed her eyes. Her neck writhed, like a sapling in the wind shaken, as moaned and shrieked that noble maid: “O wretches! into the Land of Darkness now we are passing; for all round us full of fire and blood and dismal moan the city is. Everywhere portents of calamity Gods show: destruction yawns before your feet. Fools! ye know not your doom: still ye rejoice with one consent in madness, who to Troy have brought the Argive Horse where ruin lurks! Oh, ye believe not me, though ne’er so loud I cry! The Erinyes and the ruthless Fates, for Helen’s spousals madly wroth, through Troy dart on wild wings. And ye, ye are banqueting there in your last feast, on meats befouled with gore, when now your feet are on the Path of Ghosts!”

[595] Then cried a scoffing voice an ominous word: “Why doth a raving tongue of evil speech, daughter of Priam, make thy lips to cry words empty as wind? No maiden modesty with purity veils thee: thou art compassed round with ruinous madness; therefore all men scorn thee, babbler! Hence, thine evil bodings speak to the Argives and thyself! For thee doth wait anguish and shame yet bitterer than befell presumptuous Laocoon. Shame it were in folly to destroy the Immortals’ gift.”

[606] So scoffed a Trojan: others in like sort cried shame on her, and said she spake but lies, saying that ruin and Fate’s heavy stroke were hard at hand. They knew not their own doom, and mocked, and thrust her back from that huge Horse for fain she was to smite its beams apart, or burn with ravening fire. She snatched a brand of blazing pine-wood from the hearth and ran in fury: in the other hand she bare a two-edged halberd: on that Horse of Doom she rushed, to cause the Trojans to behold with their own eyes the ambush hidden there. But straightway from her hands they plucked and flung afar the fire and steel, and careless turned to the feast; for darkened o’er them their last night. Within the horse the Argives joyed to hear the uproar of Troy’s feasters setting at naught Cassandra, but they marvelled that she knew so well the Achaeans’ purpose and device.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 13.21-39

[21] When sleep had locked his fetters everywhere through Troy on folk fulfilled of wine and meat, then Sinon lifted high a blazing torch to show the Argive men the splendour of fire. But fearfully the while his heart beat, lest the men of Troy might see it, and the plot be suddenly revealed. But on their beds sleeping their last sleep lay they, heavy with wine. The host saw, and from Tenedos set sail.

[30] Then nigh the Horse drew Sinon: softly he called, full softly, that no man of Troy might hear, but only Achaea’s chiefs, far from whose eyes sleep hovered, so athirst were they for fight. They heard, and to Odysseus all inclined their ears: he bade them urgently go forth softly and fearlessly; and they obeyed that battle-summons, pressing in hot haste to leap to earth: but in his subtlety he stayed them from all thrusting eagerly forth.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 13.168-177

[190] Then Tydeus’ son amid the war-storm met spearman Coroebus, lordly Mygdon’s son, and ‘neath the left ribs pierced him with the lance where run the life-ways of man’s meat and drink; so met him black death borne upon the spear: down in dark blood he fell mid hosts of slain. Ah fool! the bride he won not, Priam’s child Cassandra, yea, his loveliest, for whose sake to Priam’s burg but yesterday he came, and vaunted he would thrust the Argives back from Ilium. Never did the Gods fulfil his hope: the Fates hurled doom upon his head.  Greek Text

Pausanias, Description of Greece 10.27.1

Coroebus came to marry Cassandra, and was killed, according to the more popular account, by Neoptolemus, but according to the poet Lescheos, by Diomedes.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 13.213-250

[239] Achilles’ son with his resistless lance smote godlike Pammon; then his javelin pierced Polites in mid-rush: Antiphonus dead upon these he laid, all Priam’s sons. Agenor faced him in the fight, and fell: hero on hero slew he; everywhere stalked at his side Death’s black doom manifest: clad in his sire’s might, whomso he met he slew. Last, on Troy’s king in murderous mood he came. By Zeus the Hearth-lord’s altar. Seeing him, old Priam knew him and quaked not; for he longed himself to lay his life down midst his sons; and craving death to Achilles’ seed he spake: “Fierce-hearted son of Achilles strong in war, slay me, and pity not my misery. I have no will to see the sun’s light more, who have suffered woes so many and so dread. with my sons would I die, and so forget anguish and horror of war. Oh that thy sire had slain me, ere mine eyes beheld aflame Illium, had slain me when I brought to him ransom for Hector, whom thy father slew. He spared me — so the Fates had spun my thread of destiny. But thou, glut with my blood thy fierce heart, and let me forget my pain.” Answered Achilles’ battle-eager son: “Fain am I, yea, in haste to grant thy prayer. a foe like thee will I not leave alive; for naught is dearer unto men than life.”

[268] With one stroke swept he off that hoary head lightly as when a reaper lops an ear in a parched cornfield at the harvest-tide. With lips yet murmuring low it rolled afar from where with quivering limbs the body lay amidst dark-purple blood and slaughtered men. So lay he, chiefest once of all the world in lineage, wealth, in many and goodly sons.  Greek Text

Quintus of Smyrna, The Fall of Troy 13.420-29

Yet not the wise heart Trito-born herself was wholly tearless; for within her fane outraged Cassandra was of Oileus son lust-maddened. But grim vengeance upon him ere long the Goddess wreaked, repaying insult with mortal sufferance. Yea, she would not look upon the infamy, but clad herself with shame and wrath as with a cloak: she turned her stern eyes to the temple-roof, and groaned the holy image, and the hallowed floor quaked mightily. Yet did he not forbear his mad sin, for his soul was lust-distraught.  Greek Text

♠ Lykophron, Alexandra 361-64

And she unto the ceiling of her shrine carven of wood shall turn up her eyes and be angry with the host, even she that fell from heaven and the throne of Zeus, to be a possession most precious to my great grandfather the King.  Greek Text

♠ A scholia at Homer, Iliad 13.66 – Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem 2, p. 6, ed. W. Dindorf and E. Maass. Oxford 1875.

Greek Text

London, British Museum 3205: Boiotian bronze fibula, with front legs and neck of Trojan Horse (on the right); legs have wheels instead of hooves

British Museum

Digital LIMC

Mykonos, Archaeological Museum 2240: Relief pithos with Trojan Horse filled with Greek warriors and scenes from Sack of Troy


Greek warriors attacking Trojan women and children, with Menelaos and Helen (upper left; see Gantz p. 657 upper); and Neoptolemos killing Asyanax in presence of Andromache (?; lower right; see Gantz p. 655)


Digital LIMC (no photo)

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Artistic sources edited by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, June 2022

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, February 2023


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